SPARTA, Ky. — It came down to the last 10 laps and 18-year-old Tyler Ankrum found his way to Victory Lane in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series 9th-annual Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway.
This also was his first truck series win this season.
“I think this goes to show that the youngsters and underdogs can still win,” Ankrum said.
Brett Moffitt who sits in third place in the series standings, had the lead but ran out of gas with two laps remaining. He led for 35 laps.
“I had a smile on my face,” Ankrum said when he saw that Moffitt ran out of fuel. “I was so worried. I couldn’t see the 24 out front and I knew the laps were winding down and I saw him at the opposite side of the straight away and I honestly think I forgot to breath for the last three laps.”
“It’s super special,” Crew Chief David Gilliland said. “I’m proud of Tyler. He’s done a great job.”
With the victory, he is eligible for the playoffs with three races left because NASCAR granted him a waiver since he missed races because of an age restriction.
Ankrum was not eligible to compete in the first three races of the season because he did not turn 18 until March 6.
“I’m just so thankful,” Ank-rum said. “We’ve been working so hard lately. At the beginning of the year I wouldn’t think this was possible. I didn’t think we could do it, but with the support I’ve had and the pressure too. I’ve had the pressure to get a sponsor.”
Ankrum will be relying on sponsorships to be able to run the rest of the season.
“We hopefully made the chase and hopefully we can find sponsorships for the rest of the races and hopefully there is many more (wins) to come,” Ankrum said.
“This day and time sponsorship is hard to come by and obviously we are going to work hard,” Gilliland said. “Wins help everything. We’ve ran until now so we are going to do everything we can to win a championship, that’s our ultimate goal.”
Louisville native Ben Rhodes was second with less than 10 laps remaining and was forced to pit because of a flat tire.
It was a battle between Rhodes and Ankrum all night and Ankrum felt the pressure from Rhodes.
“We were able to hold off the No. 99 there for it seemed like forever. I was fighting against him for the longest time,” Ankrum said.
Sheldon Creed came out strong to start as he led all 35 laps in Stage 1.
Stage 2 was a different story as the longest green flag laps was three. Six trucks went to the garage because of damage from the five cautions.
Stewart Friesen finished second and Harrison Burton crossed the finish line in third.
Racing for Ankrum isn’t just about the victories. The 18-year-old is using this experience to learn and improve.
“I’m racing to learn and to get better,” he said. “There is no such thing as perfection in this sport. You can chase perfection and get close to perfection, but it’s like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you’ll never find it. Going forward I’m really looking for consistency. I feel like I need to run better in the stages and get better at restarts.
“I’m over the moon about what these guys have done and what these trucks bring. In a way, we did get lucky with Moffitt and the fuel, but we still led laps.”
The Alsco 300 will run at 7:30 tonight and the green flag will drop on The Quaker State 400 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.